By Charlie Senack
A Kitchissippi man who raised over $66,000 for the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre has died after his own battle with the disease.
Michael Baine, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer in 2020, passed away on Feb. 24 “on his own terms.” He was 74.
Baine was “wrapped in the loving embrace of his beloved wife, Deirdre Gibbons, and his cherished daughters, Natalie, Tammy, Jodi and Ashley,” his obituary read.
The Kitchissippi Times caught up with Baine in May 2021 when he walked 21 kilometers as part of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. He began the walk outside of his Westboro home, trekked toward Lisgar Road near Rideau Hall, and then headed back to his front yard which was decorated with balloons and streamers.
The walk was held on May 16, 2021, exactly one year after first realizing something wasn’t right. He spotted blood in his urine; the cancer diagnosis came soon after. That led to multiple surgeries the next month as cancer spread through his lymph nodes and femur.
Treatment appeared to be working and Baine went into remission in January 2021. A few months later and four weeks shy of race weekend, it was back. This time it showed up in his pelvis.
But Baine carried on with a positive attitude and the support of his four children and 12 grandchildren. When race day came, friends from as far as Hamilton, Ontario drove down to cheer on the former high school. Students from a nearby school also wrote letters and filmed videos of encouragement.
“It was one of the happier moments of my life,” Baine told Kitchissippi Times after his race was over. “I was so happy to be surrounded by family. I had friends travel all the way from Hamilton, Ontario to cheer me on.”
Baine was known by many generations in Ottawa. He started out as a teacher at St. Pius X High School in 1972, the same place he received secondary education for grades 9, 10 and 11. It’s also where he coached basketball for a number of years.
The Hamilton native climbed the ranks to become a vice principal at Lester B. Pearson High School, then principal at St. Paul High School, and eventually went on to work as a Superintendent with the Ottawa Catholic School Board in 1991.
After retiring 16 years ago, Baine became an education consultant, dedicating much of his time towards mental health, addictions issues and homelessness. He helped set up an addictions program in schools which brings in drug counsellors from Rideauwood to both educate and counsel youth.
When Baine went to the Ottawa Hospital to receive treatment, he was still looking for ways to help others. He’d strike up conversations with the other patients and would try to cheer them up with his positive attitude.
“So many people — if not the majority of people I see — are much less healthy than I am,” Baine said in May 2021. “They experience things like they can’t do another round of chemotherapy because their diabetes is acting up, or doctors don’t think they are strong enough for another surgery because of heart conditions. I didn’t have any of these qualifiers and I was lucky. I was blessed.”
Baine also chose to look at his cancer treatments as a positive. It was an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones along the way.
Now with his fight over, friends and family are looking to remember Baine for his dedication to the community.
“In his volunteer capacity, he served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Youth Services Bureau, a Trustee with CHEO, Chair of the Provincial Board of Directors of the Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, on the Board of Directors of Rideauwood, and on the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Center,” Baine’s obituary said. “This volunteerism, combined with his incredible fundraising success (The Ride for The Ottawa Hospital, the CHEO Ride, the Ottawa Hospital President’s Breakfast) led to him being awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in 2019.”
A celebration of life with a reception to follow will be held in halls A and B of the Nepean Sportsplex from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on March 3.